So this past week I wasn't writing much. A church newsletter article, a Powerpoint for the college class I teach, a sermon that I didn't much like (but other people seemed to ~ go figure), and a very few emails and FB posts. Mostly what I did was use that space usually taken up with communicating as many of my thoughts as possible to reflect on things I haven't thought about in a long time.
When I was a girl, a teenager, one of the lives I imagined for myself was as the owner of a few horses. I grew up out in the country, on the 25 or so hillside acres that my family and my grandparents owned. About five of those acres consisted of an overgrown meadow along the road, on the other side of the creek below our house. One year my dad had it mowed so that we could play baseball down there, but for most of my life it sustained itself somewhere between the range of grassland and young forest.
I kind of thought that someday I would take over those five acres and build a stable and a riding ring and maybe create a couple of riding trails through the woods.
I wasn't much of a rider. I learned during my four summers of camp, and I rode most afternoons during my middle school years with the nuns; they had a few horses and a neighboring lady, the mom of one of my classmates, took us out on trail rides. But skilled or not, like so many adolescent girls, I fell in love with horses, and had old horseshoes, once worn by some of my favorites, hanging from my bedroom wall.
I was never interested in horse shows; I just liked the freedom of a ride over the fields and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go. Toward the end of my senior year spring at my second boarding school, a group of us who had been friends for all of those years discovered that we all knew how to ride, and that one of our day student classmates had parents who ran a stable. And so as one of our last and best flings, we signed up for the school's cabin up on a mountain and rode the horses up there for the week-end.
I was surprised, two-plus decades later when my daughter took riding lessons for a couple of years, to discover that I could bridle and saddle and brush down a horse as if I'd never taken a break.
I don't know why I've been remembering horseback riding all week. I haven't given it a thought for years. But as the days opened up, I found my thoughts turning repeatedly to that dream of a small barn in the overgrown field, and early morning rides on a horse of my own. I was pretty sure that I would become a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist, but I thought that I would have that horse to keep me grounded and in touch with the outdoors.
I've been teaching my college religion students about symbol and myth, and so I decided to google horse symbolism. I found this:
The horse spirit animal symbolizes personal drive, passion and appetite for freedom. Among all the spirit animals, it is one that shows a strong motivation that carries one through life. The meaning of the horse varies depending on whether this animal spirit guide is represented as wild, tamed, moving freely or constrained.
I found that to be an intriguing description for this juncture in my life. I'm not sure why, not yet. I certainly don't want to be in charge of a horse! But it's interesting to me that these memories and once-intense longings have surfaced.